In the July 6th (2009) issue of Coin World Steve Roach wrote an interesting article entitled, “Is Old better than new? Age of slabs plays pricing role“. This is a very informative article which suggests that in some cases because of the more conservative grading practices at PCGS and NGC in the early days, that coins in their old holders might be under-graded by subsequent market standards and thus would be a prime target for a nice profitable upgrade. Over the years this has happened numerous times to be sure. Steve gives several examples in his article (p. 46).
An Example of one of the early PCGS Holders
There are a couple of aspects about these “old slabs” that need a comment or two that were not mentioned in Steve’s article.
It is common knowledge that this has always been a hot area for the crack-out artist. There have been a lot of these early graded coins which have been cracked out, received an upgrade, and thus brought more money. But just as likely, there were probably coins that were over-graded! What happened to those coins?
In spite of this earlier point in time, let’s be realistic. Considering the bull market we have seen in rare coins during recent years, it is probably better to face reality and realize that most of those coins in the “vintage” holders have likely been inspected by the crack-out artist who are expert graders working for the larger dealers (who see such a huge volume of coins that the average collector can’t even comprehend) and auction houses. Therefore, if you come across one of these old holders you need to ask the question, why is it still in that old holder! Was it because no one thought it would upgrade, or was it over graded to begin with while grading standards were being established? Likely, there is a very good reason the coin in that older holder is in its “final resting place” (the vintage holder). You must realize that the day after they started slabbing coins, someone starting cracking them out and resubmitting them hoping for better grades; essentially taking advantage of the subjective nature of grading. And as we all know, that crack-out process continues to this day and we don’t have to limit the crack-outs just to old PCGS or NGC holders.
The bottom line remains, you have to be able to grade the coin and not make a judgment about grade on whether it is in an old holder. Certainly, don’t draw any firm conclusions about whether it has been under-graded just because of the holder and when the coin was graded. All this despite the changes in grading standards we have incurred over the last 20 or so years.
NGC Holders with Black Inserts ARE VERY COLLECTIBLE!
Now, there is another aspect to these old holders, particularly early NGC holders, that one must consider, i.e., the collectability of some of these very early holders. For example, NGC started out on day one putting their coins in holders with a black background…..that only lasted about three days before it was discontinued probably due to negative market feed back and the fact, the holder simply didn’t have nice eye appeal, particularly for copper coins. Thus, NGC coins (see below) in these old black holders are quite collectible and often can be valued at multiples of the coins they contain.
The above photos came from the following link which gives a great deal of information regarding these collectible NGC slabs. Thanks to Lane Brunner for pointing this area of collecting out to Gammill Numismatics, LLC. http://forums.collectors.com/messageview.cfm?catid=26&threadid=727096
Conclusion: It’s still the same old advice…..buy the coin, not the holder…..unless you have found an old NGC “collectible holder“.
This is probably new information to many collectors, but none the less, gives you something else to be on the lookout for when looking in dealers’ showcases or someone’s personal collection. You may be able to tell a fellow collector that the coin in that old holder isn’t of any great value but the holder, well, is worth a lot!
I guess a green CAC sticker on one of these early black NGC holders would really be a keeper for a collection.
Think thrice: is the coin under-graded, over-graded or is it in a collectible slab (holder).